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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rainy day activities in the Scottish Highlands....

(Matt preparing to putt on the 18th green at Dornoch...notice the ominous clouds in the background and the rainsuit....)

It's raining today, a steady, cold, relentless sort of rain.  I'm alternating between writing, doing various household chores, and warping my loom.  The loom is a very large elderly floor loom.  Since warping it takes a long time, I tend to wind very long warps, so that I can weave a lot of yardage at one go.  Just now I'm warping 512 40-foot ends, which is to say a total of nearly 4 miles of yarn.  I bought the yarn in Brora, Scotland.
            I'm sure Scotland must be dreary in the winter, but when we were there last summer it seemed a place of endless light.  I don't know what time the sun set, but it was sometime after I did; likewise, the sun always rose ahead of me.  The day we headed into Dornoch, however, rain did not so much fall as it was hurled horizontally--at lunch, with no sign of let-up, Katie and I shrugged off our plans to go pony trekking and went exploring by car instead.
            Dornoch had a quite good bookstore and a hardware store that sold fashionable women's clothes.  The nearby town of Brora had a nice tack shop; we're always intrigued by foreign riding gear.    We were heading back and I was starting to search for a warm snug tea room when I saw the road sign:  WOOL.
            Wool means wool; in the UK,  wool also means yarn.  I love both.  I shot the car into the parking spot before Katie could blink.
            I've been in wool shops everywhere, but never before one as industrial as Kingscraig Fabrics.  Great wound cones of yarn filled the front of the shop, shelved apparently at random, without regard for fiber content, yarn type, or color.  The air smelled oily.  Near the counter I saw woven afghans, tweed fabric, and even a few finished garments; in the back a commerical loom rattled and whirred.  The prices, by the standards I was used to, were astonishingly low.   I realized I wasn't in a knitter's shop.  I was in a weaver's paradise.
            I bought several small cones of yarn, all wool mixed with a touch of silk, all in heathered shades of blue and grey.  I lingered over the large cones--but practical limits made me hesitate.  Better, I thought, to be sure this yarn was as good as I hoped, before I bought my weight in it.

(fabulous green at a constant rain)

            It was.  I wove it into five scarves in a 2/2 tweed.  I washed them to remove the oil that helped the yarn glide smoothly through the loom, and the fabric blossomed into lush softness.  The scarves were the hit of Christmas. 
            When I emailed the shop in Brora they were happy to do business with me again.  Before long I received via airmail a plastic-wrapped vacuum-sealed package that looked like it could contain something highly illegal.  It didn't.  It was twenty-five miles of yarn.

(Kim's loom and the wool from Brora)

guest blogger:  Kim Bradley

Two questions:
1.  Who buys 25 miles of yarn for their personal use?  and more importantly,
2.  Which other travel agency can direct you to the best yarn shop in the Scottish Highlands?  

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